Westside Ministries couldn’t have picked a better time for its annual coat giveaway – the frigid cold snap that hit the area is continuing through midweek.
Lydio Banana, youth director of the nonprofit group, said the effort started 27 years ago, after the death of an area child whose illness was exacerbated because she didn’t have a coat.
“Our goal this year is to serve over 1,000 children,” he said. The children, who are referred to Westside Ministries through local schools, also get a free meal, a haircut if they want one, and a toy. The coat giveaway runs through Wednesday – hopefully.
“We are still in need of coats,” Banana said. “We do have some but ... when we get to (today) and Wednesday, we’re kind of scrambling.”
The drive is in particular need of coats in toddler sizes. Organizers also are accepting monetary donations: as little as $5 will provide a new, warm coat for a child, Banana said.
Volunteers from Turlock and Pitman high schools, as well as California State University, Stanislaus, and area businesses, are helping to sort and distribute the coats.
Always welcome, the coats no doubt will be especially appreciated this year, as a prolonged cold snap continues in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. A hard freeze warning issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect overnight through Wednesday morning.
The National Weather Service predicted the high temperature will be a couple degrees higher today, with highs in the 50s by Wednesday afternoon. That’s about normal for this time of year. It looks as though there will be more of the same at the end of the week and into the weekend, with a few clouds but no rain in sight.
Winter seems to have settled in for good, with the state Department of Transportation announcing Monday that Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 and Sonora Pass on Highway 108 are closed for the season.
New coats can be dropped off at Westside Ministries, 952 Columbia Ave., Turlock. Used coats can be taken to any Carr’s Cleaners location, where they will be cleaned before distribution. Monetary donations may be dropped off or made through the website www.westsideministriesturlock.com.
Giveaway in Oakdale
An unrelated coat giveaway will be held Thursday in Oakdale. Family Support Network of Oak Valley Hospital District is having its Coats & Cookies event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1405 W. F St.
The resource center has collected more than 100 gently used coats for all ages, according to Executive Director Karen O’Bannon.
“In addition to a free coat, we have cookies – courtesy of Oak Valley Hospital nutrition services – candy canes and other treats,” she said in an email. “We will also have a drawing for grocery store gift cards.”
For more information on the giveaway, call (209) 531-7807.